Don’t quit now – four inspirational nursing experts recount 185 years’ experience in saving lives

16 DECEMBER 2021

Don’t quit now – four inspirational nursing experts recount 185 years’ experience in saving lives

In an era that has seen a ‘mass resignation’ in nursing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, four nursing experts from Charles Sturt University inspire future nurses with life lessons and insights that span 50 years in and alongside the profession.

Three nursing academics at Charles Sturt University celebrate their 50th anniversary in the nursing profession, while the fourth celebrates 35 years of caring for communities and recounts what compelled her to return to the profession she finds so fulfilling.  

Travelling the world

Associate Professor Rachel Rossiter celebrated 50 years in the nursing profession on 7 December this year.

Growing up in Whakatane, New Zealand, Rachel moved to Australia after high school, starting her training on the job at Sydney Adventist Hospital, with one week in class before moving directly to patient care.

“As long as we’d learnt how to wash someone in bed and take their temperature, we were deemed ready to begin working under the supervision of a second-year student nurse,” Rachel said.  “Probationary nurses worked a full shift and studied for a few hours either before or after their shift.”

“Some of the biggest changes I’ve seen over 50 years are advancements in treatment. For example, 50 years ago if you had cataract surgery you would lay flat in hospital for two weeks with sandbags beside your head to keep your head still. Now, cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure,” she said.

As an Associate Professor of Nursing in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences in Orange, Rachel’s career has provided opportunities for clinical practice at an advanced level in low-income countries and regional Australia and to teach and undertake research in the Middle East and East Africa.

“I’ve travelled the world, as a clinician and as a nursing academic and researcher,” Rachel said.

Rachel reflected on what it takes to be an effective nurse in today’s world.

“Nursing is one of the most respected professions,” Rachel said. “If you’re passionate about caring for your community and are not afraid of hard work it’s incredibly rewarding.”

Rachel emphasised the career opportunities available for nurses. “You can become a nurse practitioner, or clinical nurse consultant where you support improvements in health care, provide education, and conduct research focused on implementing advances in health care,” she said.

The focus of Rachel’s teaching and research is on building capacity for registered nurses to extend their practice in rural and remote Australia, with a particular emphasis on specialist nursing care for people living with Parkinson’s disease.

From the hospital, to lecture theatre, to clinical practice

Dr Eileen Petrie commenced nursing on 4 October 1971 and recently celebrated 50 years in the profession.

Eileen always knew she wanted to be a nurse. This took courage, as for many years it looked like she would follow in the family’s footsteps focusing on farming activities such as grazing.

Growing up in the country as one of six girls, Eileen’s start in nursing was a baptism of fire when, after completing six weeks’ preliminary training school (PTS) in nursing, she commenced work on the Male Surgical ward at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

Traditionally, new first-year nursing students relied heavily on the second-year nurse for guidance after such as short training program. This fuelled her desire to provide future nurses with the knowledge and confidence needed to tackle the challenges associated with patient care.

However, despite her passion for taking care of people, Eileen recalls it took years in the industry before she found her niche.

“It wasn’t until I had returned after having my kids that I realised I was more interested in community and psychiatric nursing rather than general nursing,” Eileen said.

“Unlike traditional nursing, which is very task-oriented, psychiatric nursing involves sitting, listening, and working with clients to identify their needs. The mental health clinician works out what the client/patient is capable of doing for themselves and assists them to realise their own potential.”

“It’s wonderful how we can help clients by looking beyond drugs and immediate solutions to considering their holistic needs,” Eileen said.

Eileen continued her studies through a Postgraduate Diploma in Community Psychiatric Nursing at LaTrobe University, a Master of Nursing Science at LaTrobe University, and a PhD at Adelaide University researching Rural Remote Community Mental Health Team nursing. Eileen is currently lecturing in nursing at Charles Sturt University while she maintains clinical psychiatric currency of practice.

Eileen is passionate about ensuring her students receive the appropriate education to be able to ensure holistic best-practice patient care from the Social Model of Health.

Eileen also holds the role of the Workplace Learning (WPL) Industry Liaison Lead in Nursing in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences in Albury-Wodonga. This role encompasses negotiating with clinical industry partners and developing Student Placement Agreements with those who will take Charles Sturt nursing students for work placements throughout their study.

A boomerang in nursing

Associate Professor Marguerite Bramble always felt a magnetic pull towards nursing, which continued for 15 years when she temporarily stepped out of the industry to explore other professions.

An Associate Professor in Nursing at the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences and previously based at the University in Bathurst, Marguerite works remotely from her home state of Tasmania.  She was born in Launceston and grew up in rural and remote Tasmania. She commenced her training 50 years ago at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

She started her career in nursing with a focus on pediatrics, however after having children, she wasn’t convinced that the nursing profession, as it was then, was right for her, so she took a break from nursing and completed undergraduate degrees in arts and economics. She then started work in marketing and management.

She maintained her interest in research, and with a burning desire to return to nursing she completed an undergraduate degree in nursing, along with completing her Honours program, and a PhD in nursing.

Marguerite was heartened by how nursing had progressed in status within the health profession.

“Fifty years ago, nursing was viewed similarly to an apprenticeship, whereas now, it is a highly respected discipline,” Marguerite said.

“The nexus between clinical practice, education and research has also developed, and these days it is much more accessible to explore all aspects.”

Reflecting on the diversity of her career, Marguerite encourages current and prospective nurses to not be afraid to have high aspirations.

“There isn’t another profession where you work more intimately with people, at their most vulnerable, which is incredibly rewarding as it opens up a world where you can make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.  

Marguerite specialises in aged care and co-leads a research group focused on ageing well in rural and regional Australia.

Her career highlights have included completing a cost-effectiveness study for Parkinson’s disease nurses which was instrumental in increasing the number of specialist Parkinson’s disease nurses in rural and regional NSW and nationally.

Compassion and courage: a winning combination for 50 years

After 50 years in nursing, Associate Professor Maree Bernoth has witnessed and enacted many changes within the industry.

As an Associate Professor of Nursing in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences in Wagga Wagga, Maree commenced nursing at North Ryde Psychiatric Centre, now Macquarie Hospital, while she was hoping to pursue teaching if her HSC marks enabled this.

After working as a senior nurse educator, she completed a Bachelor of Health Science Nursing at Charles Sturt University along with a Master of Education at the University of New England; and a PhD focusing on supporting safe working practices of aged care staff.

For 15 years Maree has been researching and advocating to make the aged care profession safer for carers and patients.

“It’s the ability to make such a positive impact on people’s lives that drives me,” Maree said.

Maree’s communication skills and love for learning has seen her enjoy a diverse and fulfilling career for half a century.

“From trainee to practising nurse, to researcher and educator, it’s been a wonderful career,” Maree said.

Maree feels becoming a nurse now, is more respected than ever before.

“Nurses have been the backbone throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“Having the direct ability to transform lives and whole communities is something very special.”


Media Note:

For more information or to arrange an interview with Associate Professor of Nursing, Rachel Rossiter; WPL Industry Liaison in Nursing/ Lecturer in Nursing Dr Eileen Petrie; Associate Professor in Nursing Marguerite Bramble; or Associate Professor of Nursing in the Charles Sturt University School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences, Maree Bernoth, please contact Trease Clarke at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0409 741 789 or via

Photo caption: Left to right Associate Professor in Nursing Marguerite Bramble, Associate Professor in Nursing Rachel Rossiter, Associate Professor in Nursing Maree Bernoth, WPL Industry Liaison in Nursing/ Lecturer in Nursing Dr Eileen Petrie.

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